Feb. 27, 2015
CHICAGO - As you watch DePaul's senior class in action, it's easy to see how Brittany Hrynko, Megan Rogowski and Centrese "Tee-Tee" McGee blend together as they maximize one another's special skill set.
Hrynko is the multi-talented point guard who initiates the Blue Demon attack with her quickness, ball-handling wizardry, unselfish passing and repertoire of offensive moves and shots.
Rogowski is the pure scorer who is most dangerous beyond the three-point arc. Hrynko's knack for setting her up with open looks can destroy a defense with an avalanche of three-pointers. That came to an end on Jan. 2 when Rogowski tore her anterior cruciate ligament at Villanova.
McGee takes care of the rough stuff---sacrificing her body while rebounding, playing physical defense, diving for loose balls and firing up the team with her passionate, high-energy style of play.
"We have multiple talents and can all play together so well," Hrynko said. "We have each other's backs and that brings us closer on and off the court."
McGee added: "It's like we're all connected. I'll fight hard for a rebound and outlet the ball to Brit. She'll drive up the court and find Megan for an open three. Megan knocks it down and off we go."
The talented trio will be honored Sunday on Senior Day when the Blue Demons close out the regular season against Marquette at McGrath-Phillips Arena. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m.
Knowing how to enhance each other's game has almost become second nature.
"It's like all three of us know how to play to each other's strengths and can tell what the others are going to do," Rogowski said. "You won't find any selfish players on this team. We share the ball knowing that any one of us can knock down a shot when it counts."
Hrynko is at her best filling up a box score as in a career high 38 points to go along with nine assists, four steals and three rebounds against Georgetown. She had 33 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals against Creighton and 32 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals against No. 4 Notre Dame.
The dynamic guard had 32 points against Xavier and tied the school record for three-pointers in a game with eight. She blitzed Butler with 28 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals and had 29 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals against Providence.
In 2013-14, Rogowski was at her best with a career-high 30 points and a career-best eight 3-pointers against Providence. She drilled seven from beyond the arc against Seton Hall in scoring 27 points. She went 6-for-8 from three-point range and scored 21 points earlier this season against Loyola Chicago.
Four games later, while running down a long pass and changing direction full speed, the Blue Demon nicknamed "Rogo" tore her ACL and is out for the rest of the season.
McGee consistently turns in productive minutes off the bench and had 11 rebounds in 20 minutes against Providence and eight rebounds in 24 minutes against Butler last season.
She was coach Doug Bruno's first choice to move into DePaul's starting lineup after Rogowski went down. In her first start at Georgetown, Tee-Tee contributed five points, nine rebounds and three steals.
Here are profiles of each senior who will be honored with at Senior Day.
Brittany Hrynko: Consummate Playmaker
Heading into Senior Day, Hrynko leads the BIG EAST in scoring with 20.4 points a game. She also leads in steals and is second in assists and three-point baskets.
Through 29 games, Hrynko's 1,892 points was No. 5 on the all-time career list at DePaul. She is second all-time in assists with 650 and is within striking distance of all-time career leader Veronica Ross (1986-90) who has 672. Hrynko's 297 career steals is third all-time.
Glowing statistics only begin to tell the story of this game-changer from Philadelphia. She has undergone somewhat of a metamorphosis under the tutelage of legendary DePaul coach Doug Bruno.
"Earlier in my career, I was always getting yelled at," Hrynko said. "I kept asking myself: `What am I doing wrong?' I began to see the little things coach wants. Once I started doing those things, I didn't hear from him as much.
"Coach always told me I could score the ball, but he wanted me to take good shots. Take your shot if you're open. If not, find a teammate with a better opportunity to score. I finally began to see why he was saying all that stuff. This season, I'm taking the shots that can be made.
"He always stresses to me to make really simple passes. In the past, Megan Rogowski would be cutting to the basket with just a small window of an opening. I'd try to make that really hard pass instead of passing to a wide-open teammate. Making difficult passes is something I had always done. Now I see the value of making simple passes and keeping the flow of our offense going."
Leading the team in scoring, assists and steals, Hrynko is also generally assigned to defend the opposing team's top guard. The 5-foot, 8-inch dynamo is the Blue Demons' ultimate multitasker.
"Brit is effective in so many other areas like moving the ball, getting assists, steals and rebounding," McGee said.
Rogowski added: "Actually, her defense can create offense. She gets a steal or forces a turnover and we turn that into points. That's a big contribution when she is holding down the other team's big scorer. At the same time, Brit is able to lead the offense with her ball handling and passing."
She was selected for the John R. Wooden Late Season Top 20 as one of the finalists for that prestigious award. She also made the Naismith Trophy Women's Midseason 30 List and the Dawn Staley Midseason Award List. On Friday, Hrynko was named the BIG EAST Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Hrynko has two distinct memories of her extraordinary career.
"My best memory was beating Duke at Duke last year in the second round of the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16," Hrynko said. "Before that game, `Rogo' (Rogowski) said: `Let's play like we have nothing to lose. We're expected to lose since Duke is the No. 2 seed. Let's just go all-out and see what happens.'
"We really came ready to play. We seemed to carry that momentum throughout the whole game. There was a confidence that came from within us. What did we have to lose? As the No. 2 seed, all the pressure was on Duke to win. I could sense the whole team coming together.
"Making the Sweet 16 had us doing a lot of dancing. I remember dancing in the locker room. We had this team dance. I told Rogo the night before the NCAA opener that if we beat Oklahoma, you have to do the dance. She didn't do it. But after we beat Duke, the whole team did the dance with ESPN cameras rolling.
"Another favorite memory is climbing up that ladder and cutting down the nets after we won the BIG EAST regular-season title and again after we won the BIG EAST tournament title. The last time I cut down any net was my freshman year in high school."
The DePaul experience practically forced Hrynko to open up as a person.
"When I came here, I wasn't a people person and always stuck to myself," Hrynko said. "Everybody at DePaul is so friendly--- you have to talk to them. I started getting used to being around people like this. I wasn't around my family from back home. Then I realized that this is my new family. I began to have a better attitude.
"Coach Bruno always tells us to wake up in the morning with a smile on your face because you are a beautiful person and to thank God for the opportunity to be here.
"My freshman year, I roomed with Chanise (Jenkins) and Kat (Katherine Harry). Chanise is very outgoing and Kat is someone who loves to talk. When I wanted to be by myself, Kat would not let me. It was Kat who got me out of my shell.
"Rogo and I came in together and formed a lasting bond. Our birthdays are only four days apart. We just clicked right from the beginning. If I was having a bad day, Rogo and Chanise would pick me up and provide encouragement."
These last four years have enabled Hrynko to gain a better understanding and appreciation for a coach who is helping her realize her full potential.
"What I learned from coach Bruno was to make the simple pass and be a leader on the court," Hrynko said. "He was always after me and yelling at me, and I didn't like that at first. Now, I can see what he wants. All along, he was trying to make me a better player---and more importantly---a better person.
"Off the court, the one thing I will try to do for the rest of my life is wake up every morning with a smile on my face."
Megan Rogowski: Shooter Extraordinaire
Like everyone else in the program, Rogowski came into the season fired up at the prospect of taking the Blue Demons to unprecedented heights. After all, only one starter had graduated from a 29-7 ballclub that had reached the NCAA Sweet 16. Could this be the year DePaul advances to the Elite Eight?
All of that came to a crashing end on Jan. 2 at Villanova when Rogowski sustained a season-ending injury.
"I was on a fast break running down the court looking to catch a pass over my head," said Rogowski, who was averaging nearly 13 points a game and connecting on 42 percent of her three-point shots. "As I was changing directions, I planted my right foot and blew out my knee. I heard a series of pops, and the way it felt when I went down, I knew it wasn't good.
"When I was in Washington, D.C. the next day, I went for an MRI and found out I had torn my ACL. I had mentally prepared myself for the bad news. The way it felt and sounded, there was no way it could be anything else."
Rogowski has tallied 243 triples which is third most all-time at DePaul. Her 621 three-point field goal attempts rank fourth while her .391 (243-for-621) percentage from behind the arc is also the fourth-best in program history.
The unanimous preseason All-BIG EAST Conference selection has 1,144 career points and hit the millennium mark earlier this season with 17 points against New Mexico on Nov. 16. She knocked down 6-of-8 three-pointers and scored 21 points in a 109-84 win over Loyola Chicago.
Along with being ranked in DePaul's career and single-season record books, Rogowski also holds several single-game records. She knocked down eight 3-pointers against Providence on Jan. 8, 2014 which tied the school record for 3-pointers in a game and set a new standard at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
Her 5-of-6 effort against Butler on Feb. 22, 2014 tied a McGrath-Phillips Arena record for 3-point field goal percentage.
"Megan has been a mainstay in our DePaul backcourt since her freshman year and has worked to make herself one of the leading three-point shooters in the nation," Bruno said. "In that process, she has also grown into being a total and complete guard.
"Megan's intelligence for the game and competitiveness will be as missed as much as her ability to space the floor with her three-point shooting. The entire DePaul program was devastated by Megan's injury.
"While we express total empathy for Megan's unfortunate circumstance, we also know that every team in America must deal with injuries. It will now be up to the remainder of our team to step up and fill the huge void left by Megan Rogowski's season-ending injury."
The 5-9 guard and Hersey High School's all-time leading scorer maintained a positive attitude while undergoing surgery and rehab.
"If this had to happen, I'm glad it was while I'm playing at DePaul," Rogowski said. "I've had great support from everyone at DePaul along with family and friends. My teammates and coaches have been great, and so have my doctors, everyone in the training room. I'm trying to help the team doing whatever I can do.
"I have a lot of faith in my teammates, and we'll be just fine without me. This is a strong team that is able to put something together and win games."
Rogowski's signature moment came in that game against Providence when her eight 3-pointers led to a career-high 30 points in a 91-71 triumph.
"I couldn't wait for the next open shot," Rogowski said. "Coach Bruno always says that we have the greenest green light in America and you've got to just keep on shooting.
"I was real confident in my shot that night after I didn't hit any threes in our loss at Creighton the game before. I've got to give the credit to Brittany and Chanise for getting me the ball.
"I was a little surprised at how open I was that whole game. My teammates kept getting me the ball and I kept making shots. I think I hit my first four 3-pointers. You're confident and feeling good about yourself. You want the ball, and my teammates noticed that."
Hrynko always keeps an eye out for the long-range specialist.
"Megan is a great player," Hrynko said. "I know if I get her the ball, she is going to hit her shot. When she's not hitting, she's good at attacking the basket. When she's a little off, I tell her: `Keep shooting---you'll get it. Let the last one go.' I'll keep encouraging her to make shots.
"When I have the ball in transition, I'll look for Megan to knock down the three. Chanise and I do a good job getting her the ball. The key to setting up Megan is penetrating inside, and when the defense collapses, kick it out to her for three-point shots."
Each time Rogowski loaded up, McGee got fired up.
"She created such momentum when she would knock down the three," McGee said. "Brooke Schulte and I stood up and screamed every time she hit a three."
Rogowski will never forget the clutch three she hit that led to a 104-100 victory over Oklahoma in the 2014 NCAA tournament opener in which both teams set an NCAA tournament record for most combined points.
"We had led by 19 points in the second half, but Oklahoma came back to tie it 97-97," Rogowski said. "Brittany drove the lane and my defender went with her. I was all alone in the corner when Brit made this one-hand, over-the-head pass and I knocked down the three with 40 seconds left. That and my two free throws with 16 seconds to go pretty much sealed the deal.
"When I caught that pass from her, I wasn't thinking about the pressure of the shot and what it meant. I stayed in the moment and focused on making it. There was a lot of excitement because it felt like that might be the game.
"Brit and I have this connection after playing together for four years. She is a great guard and dribble penetrator who always knows where I'm at and does a great job of setting me up with open looks."
Rogowski said she couldn't have picked any better basketball classmates than Hrynko and McGee.
"Brittany and Tee-Tee are very good players---quick, athletic and multi-talented," Rogowski said. "It's been a fun ride playing alongside them. They are fun to hang out with and very special people that I will keep in touch with forever.
"We complement each other with our games. Tee-Tee is a great defender and rebounder and seems to be everywhere on the court. Brit is an outstanding point guard and distributor who always makes a lot of shots. I complemenedt them by knocking down shots. The three of us together were a complete package. Brit and I have a special bond after coming into the program together."
One of Rogowski's favorite memories is the sensational 18-1 run at the end of her junior season that ended with a loss to Texas A&M in the Sweet 16. She takes pride in having helped lead DePaul to its first BIG EAST regular-season and tournament titles.
Those flashbacks to her college days will include fun trips to Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, places she had never been to before.
"My four years at DePaul, I learned so much being surrounded by great people, teammates and coaches," Rogowski said. "Jill Hollembeak (academic advisor) and everyone else taught me so much, and I have grown tremendously since my freshman year.
"Coach Bruno taught me so much both on and off the court. I can always talk to him, and he will always be there for me. He cares so much for us. It's awesome to know that no matter what, he will always be there for all of us."
Centrese McGee: Hustle & Grit
Perhaps no player personifies the fighting spirit of this Blue Demon team more than this blue-collar "power guard" from Thornton Fractional North whose scrappy and aggressive play brings in rebounds, loose balls and a healthy respect from her teammates for the hard-nosed sacrifices she routinely makes.
Despite her 5-7 stature, McGee has snatched her share of rebounds the last two seasons against the likes of Marquette's 6-3 Katherine Plouffe, St. John's 6-2 Amber Thompson, Seton Hall's 6-2 Sidney Cook and Creighton's 6-0 Sarah Nelson.
"Even though I'm just 5-7, there are times when I feel like I can dominate on the boards," McGee said. "Just because someone is bigger than me doesn't mean I shouldn't get a rebound over you.
"When I go against 6-4 Brandi Harvey-Carr in practice, it's a battle. I don't expect her to get a rebound over me. That's just the mentality I have."
Hrynko knows how hard McGee battles down low.
"She always brings it in practice and knocks everybody around," Hrynko said. "People in the media, fans---nobody notices what she does for us. It stands out to us. She does our dirty work.
"There was this shootaround before a game last season when Tee-Tee was doing well getting rebounds against Brandi. Coach Bruno said: `Is she the only one who can go against Brandi?' I kind of mumbled: `Well, she's the only one as strong as Brandi.'"
Rogowski realizes how important McGee is to the team.
"Tee-Tee goes after every loose ball for us and outrebounds bigger players by using her body to push them out of the way," Rogowski said. "She is pretty powerful under there.
"Her physical defense, forcing turnovers and securing loose balls lead to open shots for us. Tee-Tee gives us energy and momentum and does all the things you don't notice."
McGee spent two seasons at Illinois before transferring to DePaul, sitting out a year and launching her Blue Demon career last season.
"I didn't know what coach Bruno was like before I got here," McGee said. "After transferring from Illinois and sitting out a year, it gave me a chance to learn his system. When he yells, I remember him saying not to take the things he is saying negatively. Learn from it and think of the positive.
"Before coming here, I had known Chanise Jenkins, Anna Martin, Katherine Harry and Keisha Hampton. I had to get used to a lot more fundamental work. In the beginning with all the coaches telling you stuff, it wasn't easy. Once you've been in this system, it's not as hard. It was helpful for me to sit out that first year.
"The transfer has worked out well, and I made the right decision. I've been to an NCAA Sweet 16 and been part of a BIG EAST champion team. These are some of the goals I've realized since coming here, accomplishments I would not have experienced."
In her second start of the season Jan. 4 at Georgetown, McGee contributed five points, a season-high nine rebounds and three steals. She scored a season-high 10 points against Creighton and had eight rebounds and four assists against St. John's.
"I'm in better shape this season," McGee said. "If I continue to start, I have to be ready to open the game with a lot of energy. The way I play and what I do for the team, I have to be hyped up. In my final season, I don't want to take the game of basketball for granted. You never know when it's going to be your last game."
McGee is glad she finished up her collegiate career in Lincoln Park.
"Before coming to DePaul, I was really shy and not very outgoing," she said. "The campus at Illinois is so spread out. Here, everything is close and you are near your family.
"Coach Bruno makes sure you get to know people at DePaul. All of the basketball players are given a list of athletic department staff members and we go around the Sullivan Athletic Center introducing ourselves, talking for a while and getting their signatures.
"We do community service projects and get to know people in the neighborhood. We show our support for our fellow student-athletes on other teams by going out to their games and cheering them on. Coach has us attend plays and productions from our theatre school and we've gone to the Goodman Theatre. We all went to see the show Blue Man Group and also Motown The Musical. He tries to expose us to different things that will expand our horizons.
"The biggest thing I'll always remember about coach Bruno is how much he cares about his players as athletes and as people. He is always telling us to stay positive and be happy. If you can make another person put a smile on his or her face, you've just made the world a little nicer place to live."